A short history of the world and religion in the centuries from the first to the twentieth indicates the effects of society and the economy on cathedral building. The greatest period of cathedral building appeared to be the medieval times. The establishment of Christianity within the society and the acceptance of the Church as a hierarchial influence ensured a period of deep involvement in religion.
In the sixteenth century the Reformation occurred, which split the original Church, basically, into Protestant and Catholic factions. This became a period of competitiveness between the Churches with cathedrals of immense size and decorativeness being constructed in an attempt to gain followers. Fewer, but far grander, cathedrals were built during this time.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the effects of secularism, on religion, served to slow the building urge further. The need for inner questioning and justification within the Churches forced them to place more emphasis on the true, internal meaning of religion, rather than strive for external manifestations of faith.
Then, came a series of Revolutions. The ‘Glorious’ Revolution, the French Revolution and the Industrial/Economic Revolution created turbulence in the society. The Church remained a stabilizing influence throughout the years and turned wholly to performing works of charity.
The few cathedrals built in this time were constructed speedily with the aid of technological advances in mass production of building materials. This was not; however, an era of high artistic merit in religious architecture.
In the early twentieth century there began a rapid; cyclic process of change. Two World Wars and the Great Depression were only some aspects of turbulence in this period. The situation was not condusive to attempts at great feats of cathedral building. However; two examples of cathedral building ventures in the twentieth century serve to highlight the effects of society and the economy on cathedral building.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool evolved as a successful attempt at building; through careful financial and building management and an all consuming need for a cathedral to serve the needs of the Diocese . In Brisbane, the Holy Name cathedral project suffered from the social and economic effects of the twentieth century. The series of events marking this century’s history spelt financial disaster in the Brisbane Diocese. These factors linked with determination rather than need resulted in the failure of this venture.
Church leaders and architects are required to use their personal and professional skills in unison and be responsible administrators in religious building projects. The financing of cathedrals by the parishioners of the Diocese combined with the unique quality of a cathedral shows that responsible leadership is required if the interests of the parishioners are to be maintained.